Friday, June 29, 2012

Reflections on my job

A little background information -
I didn’t even think I’d graduate college because I never knew anyone who graduated college. I didn’t even pick a major because I figured I’d fail out anyway. The counselor gave me a list of majors and told me to pick one. I took the first one on the list – accounting.

My junior year, I took a food politics class. You’d read a Michael Pollan-esque book every week or you’d analyze colonial cookbooks to delve out implications of that community. Awesome class. I met the professor for office hours one day, and as I left, she asked, “What’s your major?” I replied “accounting.” She responded, “Want a job at [firm name removed] in NYC?” Her father was a partner in the firm, and he sent my resume in. I was the second oldest of seven growing up, and we didn’t go on many trips, so my interview at the firm was my first flight since I was adopted and flown from South Korea to Oklahoma. I liked the internship and loved living in NYC, so I accepted the job offer at the end of the summer.

So here are my three most memorable experiences at the firm. They are not all pleasant or positive, and I wouldn’t recommend all of these to everyone, but they are experiences that I will carry with me forever.

One, the time I was put on probation with the firm
My first few months in the firm, I received an issue of the Water Cooler. I was obsessed and wanted to be a part of it immediately. I emailed the Water Cooler but was denied because I was a first year. At the level meeting in the fall, I raised my hand and asked again if I could write for the Water Cooler. The NYC Managing Partner said yes, but then I was later denied again by someone in HR. This left me with one other option – start an Underground Water Cooler. The Underground started growing, and 21 issues in, I got caught. Within my first year at on the job, I was called into the NYC Managing Partner’s office for the Underground. His first statement was, “I’m just trying to figure out why someone would do this.” He was very kind about the situation, and he even asked me to write for the real Water Cooler. But it’s not the best way to start your career here. I had to sign something acknowledging that I violated firm policies by misusing email and that further violation would result in my separation from the firm.

Lesson learned – Those policies are legit. Also, writing for the real Water Cooler is one of my favorite parts of my work experience.

Two, Trapped in the Closet
I worked on a private equity client with four or five people for a couple of years. We had this tiny office with no windows, and we had up to five people in that room. The senior wouldn’t even let us throw away food items in the room for fear that it would stink up the already congested space. Someone was working off of a file cabinet. This was amazing. We knew everything about each other and we gave each other a hard time. I would literally cry every day from laughing so hard. A favorite memory with these people was rushing to the UPS in the Times Square Toys R Us because it was open the latest. Afterwards, we watched people play Dance Dance Revolution in the store.

The senior would each week work with us to put together a list of what needed to be done that week. At the end of the week, she would go through it line by line with the group. If we didn’t have it done, she would curse us out. Really offensive cursing; sometimes not even in English. If I gave her a sub-par workpaper, she would yell out in front of everyone “@#$%$%^&%$^*$)!!!” But she was always the first person to have your back if you did a great job. This senior was a real role model to us because she was so upfront in her feedback and so consistent in her approach, and we always knew that she genuinely cared about us.

Lessons learned – Feedback is the most generous gift you can give someone – especially if it’s specific and consistent. Also, those small offices with no windows are the greatest things that can happen to a team. I wish I could work from there with those people all of the time.

Three, “Mujhe India Mein Kaam Karke Achha Lagaa.” Hindi for “I enjoyed working in India.”
This past year, I had the incredible opportunity to work in the Hyderabad office. I was impressed at how the company’s culture translated to the India office. They had counselors and onboarding buddies and women’s events, but then they also had their own twists on the events – an American Idol style singing competition, baller parties with actors and athletes.

It was such a friendly office, and I was so proud to be a part of the firm because it didn’t consider caste or gender in hiring. It really offered stellar work opportunities for the best and brightest in India. I really felt like the team supported me – the NY team and the Hyderabad team. To really put the icing on the cake, I got to give a speech in the Town Hall meeting with 300 or so audit professionals. It’s brief, but that’s because I couldn’t memorize more than a few Hindi sentences.
Lessons learned – Experiencing the firm abroad makes you prouder to be a part of the organization. If you come up with ideas and get people on board, you have a lot of flexibility to try new things at the firm.

In conclusion
I honestly, never thought I’d stay here this long. I didn’t even take my CPA until my second year because I figured I’d quit by then. Each year, I felt like I learned something new and met new people and took on more responsibility. The increased responsibility and challenge is what made me like each year more and more.

When I was a high school senior, I wrote myself a letter not to be opened for five years. I found it a few years ago when I was home in Oklahoma. My greatest hopes for myself as a high schooler were to “not fail out of college and get a good job like a receptionist in a medical office.” I ended up nowhere near my “dream job,” but sometimes the greatest thing to ever happen to you is to not have your life plans work out.